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INTERVIEW WITH DR. BERNA MASSINGILL, CS PROFESSOR AT TRINITY UNIVERSITY

(0:06) How did you become interested in computer science?

My undergraduate degree is in math, and it goes back, I graduated from high school in 1973 to kind of give you an idea of how things were. My dad started out in physics, and at some point in his career path he drifted into engineering. And in engineering that was when people were just starting to use computers in engineering kinds of jobs, so he just kind of drifted into using them in his job and the bottom just kind of fell out of the sector of engineering that he was in and he switched to computers full time. He kept telling me, computer science- good field for a woman! And then he’d tell me this inspiring story, or it was meant to be inspiring, about a woman who ran a punch card operation out of her living room and this allowed her to have a job and raise her kids at the same time, but I thought, no I don’t think that’s for me.

 

So I went off the the University of Texas and I decided to study math, and I took one computer science course my first year, and it was really boring, compared to the math classes, and I thought why does dad tell me this? And then somehow, I think what it is, is I took a couple more classes and I had some summer jobs. I didn’t really know anything, but I could be the errand girl in a computer science company. So I did some of that, and I’m not sure exactly… So I finish this math degree and somehow I fell into a job in technology. And somewhere along the line, I discovered that programming was something that kind of seemed to have a knack for, and I kind of liked it, I was kind of good at it, and you could make money doing this. And there were no other obvious options for making money as a person with an undergraduate degree in math. I always meant to go back to school and get a master’s degree or PhD, but I was thinking math. And that just didn’t happen, and the jobs I had, I liked, and I didn’t really have any formal computer science education because in 1970, they were starting to offer degree programs in computer science, but just barely.

 

I kind of fell into the job and decided that I liked it, and one thing led to another, and I spent about ten years in various jobs doing things, and the companies were willing to send me to training schools and I learned a lot on the job, and this was just kind of what people did in those days. And at some point, at one of my jobs I was doing software development in Austin after having been several different places, and I don’t remember how I got interested, but I decided to go back and take a couple classes at University of Texas part time. Just to see, because I thought those classes I took as an undergraduate were really boring. I kind of got the idea from someone I worked with, that maybe things had changed. I get in this class and I discover that, the academic computer science is about abstract stuff, and as a former math major, I liked that. It took me exactly one class, to decide, I think this is going to be a worthwhile use of my time. And I was so happy, so I took some classes part time, and I was thinking maybe at some point I’d like to go back to graduate school and get an advanced degree.  You can just see that my career path is not exactly planned.

 

At some point I took the GRE maybe if I had about another year of classes worth to do before I was ready to apply. But I got the GRE scores back and they were really good and I was doing research with a faculty member at the University of Texas with an independent studies class, and I told him what they were, I bragged a bit. And he said, well it’s funny you should mention that, because I’m still in touch with the people from my graduate school, and they’re reviewing applications for next year, and we’re always looking for women who look like they’d be qualified, and we never get any applications. And I know its a month past the deadline, but I bet if you send them an application, you know, maybe. I said, OK, maybe. So I sent them the application and one thing led to another, and here I am.  I kind of fell into it, with a degree in math. And I think that’s not atypical with people who got into computing from the 1970s, which is what I did.

 

(5:21) Did you notice the gender disparity in your classes, if so, what was it like in your CS classes?

 

The way I remember it is, there were never a lot of women in the math classes, or in the computer science classes. But I think it peaked, from what I’m reading now, in nineteen eighty something, and that there were more then, then there are now. And I just find this flabbergasting, you know in biology there are more women than men now, and some of the other sciences, and it was always pitched to me as this is a particularly female friendly field. Because physics has centuries of excluding women, and thinking they’re not up to this, they can’t do it, and math, you know, why bother their little heads? But computer science, has only existed as a field for thirty or forty years, so there isn’t all these centuries of entrenched prejudice, so how did it happen, that instead, we have new prejudices? I don’t know.

 

When I was taking classes, as someone with an undergraduate degree in math, I was kind of used to the idea of it, that there wouldn’t be a lot of other women in the classroom. It would be me and maybe a few others, but there wouldn’t be very many. So it didn’t seem weird to me. My personal take on this,  sometimes when it’s me in the room and a bunch of undergraduate guys, it does bug me a little bit. Is it less than when I was a student? I don’t remember, this is why I read in the popular press about women in computing. My pet theory is that it’s video games, it’s something to do with that.

 

(7:44) Do you know about #gamergate?

 

I know a little bit, I know what’s been in the popular press. That and I am on the mailing list for women in computer science, so I follow the articles that they have sent out. My perception is that for a long time, for a lot of the games, it’s about rescuing the princess and killing the dragon, and what is there for a woman to relate to? All the female characters, they look like Barbies. You can see why this would appeal to a teenage/adolescent boy with no social skills. But what’s the appeal to the teenage girls? I’m not so sure it’s there. Although I know some young women who play games. But now it’s not even rescuing the princess and slaying the dragon, it’s this horrible, misogynistic, violent, I don’t even know what word to use. I don’t know that I personally have seen a lot of this, but the stories I hear, especially from the young women, I just think, good god. No wonder they don’t stay in the field. I’m surprised they have the gumption to be in it in the first place. And on this mailing list, I do hear from young women that say I never seen any of this, I’ve been treated like any of my coworkers and its fine. And then you go hear the other side of some stories, that are just hair raising.

 

(10:05) Have you heard of the imposter syndrome? Have you ever experienced it?  How do you think women should approach this, do you have any suggestions for overcoming it?

 

Yes, I personally can remember I finished my PhD, and I did a two year post-doc, and somewhere in the middle of that I thought I might want to get a faculty job, but the very idea of assistant professor was just preposterous. And the woman who was supervising me said, well you’ll never know if you can do it, unless you try. Just try, what’s the worst that can happen. I went to graduate school with people who were, frankly they were out of my league intellectually, and it was a good school. So I think some of them were smarter than me, some of them not.  I think you aren’t always not the best judge of your own ability. I don’t want to answer from my own point of view. There was one course that I taught, we offer one course that is basically math for CS majors.For some reason students not getting it in that course, they don’t come for help very often. The students in other courses, sometimes they do, they realize they’re not getting it, but in this course she was the only one who ever came. She was in my office and she was asking me some question and about the problem she was working on, and she said, OK, alright, I just don’t feel like I’m getting it. I said, well you have the second highest average in the class, if you’re not getting it, nobody is!  And she kind of blinked and looked at me, like, really?

 

I had another female student who said that she had come to Trinity thinking she was going to major in, one of the liberal arts or the humanities, but all of the people who’d been around her, her parents, and all of her teachers in high school, said no, you should go into some engineering or STEM fields because you’re really good at this stuff. And she said, and they’d tell me that, and I’d think no, it’s because the classes are easy. No it’s not that the classes are easy. I think she got over it. By the end of her time at Trinity, she was making suggestions about how we could improve our courses, and generally being a little obnoxious about her newfound self-confidence.

 

As soon as I talk to young men who are like, well I’m just not good at this, well yes you are. I see some of it, I don’t see a lot of it. I think some people don’t have this problem. I think that the real thing is, I guess if I see this in someone, often it is, there are people who think they’re imposters who really are. That has to be one of the possibilities, right? But the ones that are really good at it, you just have to tell them, no, you’re not the best judge of this. I think that young men get raised to pretend if they can’t actually do something to pretend, to fake it. Women don’t get raised that way, and I don’t why that should be, but that’s how it seems to turn out a lot. You just have to tell them, just because the person next to you seems to be getting it, is not necessarily a reliable indicator. And those of us who know about the students relative ability can say, people have been known to exaggerate their abilities, and sometimes to themselves, as much as anyone else.

 

I have read things in the popular press, that there have been studies done with people who actually are ignorant and not very capable, are more apt to having an inflated sense of their abilities than the people who are smart and capable. The ones who are smart and capable, know exactly how much better they could be. I’ve never really looked into this, but I have read articles in the popular press and I think, well that’s interesting. When I spot this, I mostly say, you’ve got the second highest average in the course, if you’re not getting it, no one is.

 

(15:34) What’s your favorite programming type?

 

I don’t know that I have a favorite. One of my colleagues, Dr. Lewis, is fond of telling his students that they should always have, he calls them “side projects” something that’s not really related to any of your classes, or if for me, it would be anything related to the classes I might be teaching, or doing or thinking about doing for research. It’s just something I’m interested in. They have been all over the map, I don’t know that I’ve ever really been interested in games, but one year he and I kind of team taught write like an arcade style video game, and he had kind of put together a framework for them to sort of start with. And I was the first guinea pig to see how it worked with what they were going to be doing, and I followed that. So it’s all over the map.

 

This past summer, I got interested in a website called projecteuler.com, it’s math problems that require programming to solve easily. And it’s a whole series of problems from very easy to somewhat difficult and I got interested in those. I think, one of the things that I have fun with that I think why it would be fun is not really obvious to people who aren’t in this field is… my mom, everytime I go to visit, she’s rearranged the furniture, now I don’t do this, rearrange furniture, but I do rearrange stuff in my programs, so I  think it’s the same idea, expressing itself in a really different way. I’ll write a program and I’ll decide, that this is really not well organized, it works, and it does what it’s supposed to do, and if somebody uses it, it looks ok. But internally it’s all kind of a mess, all disorganized, so I’ll rearrange the furniture. I’ll spend a couple of hours a week, and at the end as far as someone using this can tell, nothing has changed, but it’s all much better organized. I for some reason find this attractive,  I don’t know why.

 

Refactoring is the term that people use and I where that came from I don’t know. I think I’m not really visually oriented, but I can get interested in that too. There’s a whole area that is theory based and mathematical, and as a person with an undergraduate degree in math, that appeals to me. I think it doesn’t appeal to everybody, I don’t do much with it. The course we have is math for CS majors, I taught that for many years and it was really too bad, because some of our students like math, some of them don’t. I have the best, to be in that course, we start with some symbolic logic and it moves on from there a lot of math-y kind of topics and to me it was like one fun topic after another, and invariably there would be like one student in the class who would think that too, and the rest of them are sitting there like, what? I don’t want to be here.

 

(19:37) Do you teach any other CS courses now?

 

I like theory, but our department chair is also a theory guy, and one of our new faculty is also a theory guy, so that’s not really an open niche, I have somehow fallen into this thing that is, I took one class that was intro to CS at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), as a regular undergraduate, and didn’t get interested, and didn’t really know what I was interested in, and one summer I took a summer school class at UTA in assembly language which was talking to the computer at a much more lower level. It was somewhere in that course that the light bulb went off in my head and I started to understand what I was doing, so I think that was the beginning. I am interested in understanding things at a little bit less of an abstract level than we sometimes start off with this these days, and a lot of programmers never go any deeper than that, that appeals to me too.

 

So this is almost like exactly the opposite of the theory stuff, it’s not very abstract.  We have some courses that explore that stuff for our major  we have students write a little bit of the lower level interaction with the computer stuff, we have a couple of courses that deal with things at a less abstract level. I have somehow ended up teaching all of those courses, and this is my niche. I had never really thought about it, and one of the junior faculty said, so you’re kind of the systems person, I said, maybe I am, OK, I’m fine with that. So I teach some the courses I teach off and on some of the beginning programming class. For many years I taught the second semester course. Beginning programming is hard, I got assigned to teach that two sections of that the first semester I taught at Trinity. I don’t know how this happened, or why this didn’t occur to me, but I was working pretty hard that summer trying to get the post doc stuff in a state where I could stop, and hand off what I had done to my supervisor  and call that done.

So it didn’t occur to me until about a couple of weeks before I was supposed to start teaching at Trinity teaching beginning programming, was that teaching this to people, some of who had never written a program, might be a little challenging. And I got here, and oh yeah, it was challenging. Because I remember learning to do this myself, I didn’t really remember very well at that point because it had been like ten or fifteen years. But I remembered it just well enough to kind of remember that like at first, that first semester I did well in the course, but I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. And I realized that I would be dealing with students who were also, it takes a while for it to click. I taught that course, and man when you get a student with whom it does click, now that’s rewarding. Then there are the ones that it just never does, and you can’t figure out,  you think there’s got to be some way to explain it, so that it’ll make sense, and you don’t.

And you wonder, well did I not explain it right, or was there some other approach? Is this student just not going to get it, are they not wired that way? I’ve heard something recently, because I have always heard that yes, some people’s brains pick up on stuff, and some people’s don’t. And the ones who don’t aren’t going to and they should just major in something else, because there are lots of things to be interested in. I read something recently, saying no, everybody can do, the phrase now is called “computational thinking”. I’m skeptical, but maybe. I think that most of us in this department, we have a specialty or we have something that we teach a lot but we’re all kind of generalists. Baseball has a term for this? Utility- something, we’re all kind of like that, we can teach a lot of things, and sometimes we do. We’re too small to be really specialized.

 

(24:38) Did you have a mentor in grad school or throughout your college career, and do you think this helped you at all?

 

You’d think that my dad would have played that role, because it sounds like he encouraged me in this field for some reason, things that I would later find interesting, when he tried to encourage me to do them, I wasn’t really interested. I’d find them on my own and then I’d be interested, I don’t know what that’s about. When I was an undergraduate I thought maybe I was going to major in math, so I started with calculus. Someone encouraged me to sign up for the one honors section and so the professor for that course, I got to know him a little bit and UT in those days, they didn’t really have like an academic advising structure, like Trinity. But he kind of played that role for me, informally.

I think of him as a person who mentored me toward the math degree, and after that I had about ten years of having jobs before I went back to graduate school. And I had a series of really nice bosses, but that’s not really the same thing. In graduate school you have these advisors, I had a true world class, I don’t know that he mentored me, but he was kind, he was patient, he was incredibly smart and after I finished, he got me through the process and there were time that I thought you know, this is just taking forever and I’m having trouble. I did this two year post doc with a woman who had been someone he knew, and he kind of recommended her, he said she would be someone good to work with, because she’s “one of the smartest people I know”. I thought, man is this high praise, and she was interested in theory and I was interested in that, and in a way somehow again, serendipity we got access to some funding to do something that was not theory.

So I ended up not doing theory with her at all. She had more really good little pithy comments on how to work people, so in a way she was kind of a mentor, in a way that I totally didn’t expect. She had a lot of suggestions on how to work with other people, she was the one that said, when I’d say “but I don’t know if I want to apply for these faculty jobs, because I don’t know if I could do that” and she’d say “you’re not going to know unless you try”. The first semesters at Trinity were a little strange, and the people calling me Professor Massingil, but then you get used it. And well you know, I do know more than they do, so I don’t know everything. There was a succession of people that I learned from.

 

(28:27) Do you have any recommendations for gaining coding experience as a non- computer science major of any background/range of coding experience? We have previously worked with codeacademy.org as a class, do you have any recommendations outside of this?


I have actually not had any experience with the online introduction to CS. We’re not really sure what’s going to happen with the new curriculum and the digital literacy requirement. I think most of us, there are a couple of people in this department who really push to have that digital literacy requirement. Most of think that, with what’s happening in the world, everybody should understand computational thinking. Not everyone is going to be programmers, but everybody can learn to think a little bit like programmers think. And I think it helps you understand that this little thing (referencing an iPhone 5s) has got more processing power than the room-sized computers that I worked with when I was starting out.

I’m tempted to say, I hope that this digital literacy requirement will turn out well, and that everyone will get exposure to thinking like a CS person and that this will be good. With the old curriculum we do offer a couple of intro courses there’s the hardcore one for CS majors that the engineers and the math majors take and some of the other science majors take, and it meets the “Understanding Scientific Methods” requirement, but we have had people taking it only for that purpose and it is often not pretty. It’s a little mathematical, it’s pretty fast paced, it’s hard, we introduce a course called “intro to programming logic” which is kind of a milder version of that course for non STEM people. And I would say that, unfortunately we don’t have enough faculty to staff it so that a lot of people might take it. I think it’s a good course, we try to give the students some exposure, understanding that they’re not going to be programmers, and to give them just enough.

At UT we called it “math appreciation”, kind of like art appreciation, you aren’t going to be an artist, but you can learn to appreciate the work of those who do. The online courses can work, the fact that they seem wildly successful suggests that this can work. To me it’s really hard to believe that you can really get started without having someone who can help you in person. Because someone who is just starting out, using programming, you’re telling the computer what to do. It’s a series of logical, methodological, here’s the computer, do this for me. Computer’s are so picky, they don’t understand human language, the understand their language and they’re incredibly picky, every comma has to be just so, in ways that humans don’t care about. When you’re just starting out, it’s really hard and I think having someone help you pass that first stage where you just can’t. It tells you no, I’m not doing that. And someone with experience can say, oh, its because you made this mistake. I don’t know how you get past that, without someone to look over your shoulder and tell you, maybe the online courses have figure out a way to do that. I can’t help thinking that it really is a big plus if you are in an environment where you have someone who can help you, and I think we’re pretty good.

Many of the faculty here teach that beginning course, I tried but I can only do so much, they are good about working with the students and getting them past that I don’t know how to do anything stage. We have a student chapter of the professional organization ACM that does tutoring, and I think they do a good job. My piece of advice is you can try one of the online courses, signing up for an actual formal course, I think our courses are good about giving you the conceptual stuff in addition to the details is really important. We’re understaffed, so it won’t be an option for everybody, but whatever you do to get started, if you can find a live helper, someone who can get you through that first stage, I think it’s a good idea. One of my own little stories is how I took this course and I didn’t understand anything, and it was the next summer that I worked with my dad, and they gave me clerical stuff to do. He would try to get me to do stuff that was actual programming, and just stuff that would help him, he thought, well they’re not keeping her busy with this clerical stuff, I’ll give her some projects to do. So he would explain to me what he wanted me to do, and I said OK, I’ll try it.

That was in the days when people drew flow charts to program, so I drew flow charts, and it filled the whole page, and it was really complicated it had all of these boxes and arrows going sixteen directions. I said ok, dad here it is what do you think? He looked at it, and the way I remember this, but you know it was a really long time ago, so I may be misremembering but he got out a sheet of paper and he drew about three or four boxes and it was really simple. I looked at it, and i thought, and once I saw what he was doing, and how it was so much simpler than the way I thought about the problem it was like the lightbulb coming on, so I think this is what has to happen at some point. You have this moment of not having any idea to saying, oh, I see. When I went back to school to take some more classes part time, I had another one of those light bulb moments. It was a similar kind of thing, I had been doing stuff in my jobs in which they were these pictures of how these things were organized, and I hadn’t noticed this, but they all had sort of somethings in common.

They all had various ways of expressing the same abstract idea. So I’m in this second semester of programming class and at some point I know a lot more than the other students, but I don’t really have any abstract conceptual stuff. And they draw this picture and it’s like all of a sudden this light bulb comes on, all that stuff that I’ve been seeing in the different jobs, it’s all versions of this. It’s an abstract idea, and you can talk about it like an abstract idea. Do you know, I believe I’m going to get something out of this course? And I did. And so I signed up for the next course and then one thing led to another. So somebody to teach you the abstract stuff. Maybe it’s codeacademy.org, maybe it’s a course at a good school, and somebody to work with.

Coding Day Camp: Java

When first told that I would have to try to attempt coding, I was a bit nervous. As someone who has not coded a day in her life, I was worried that I would fail epically in the assignment. I thought that coding with any programing language was something that required a certain type of intelligence, something that I did not posses. None the less, I knew I had to complete the assignment, so I created an account on Code Academy, and started the tutorial on Java.

To my surprise and delight, I was not only able to complete the entire tutorial, but also completed it without very little problems. Code Academy did an excellent job walking me through all the activities, while still ensuring that I was still learning the program. In fact, after I completed the first tutorial on Java, I felt tempted to start a new tutorial on another language. Code Academy was able to challenge my views on who is able to code, and what coding is about. No longer was coding a scary field that only a few gifted individuals were able to learn, but something that everyone (including a novice like myself) could potentially thrive in. I would highly recommend Code Academy to anyone who wants to learn to code, but does not believe that they can.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.47.49 PM

My Experience with HTML

As someone who has never coded before, I was a little intimidated by this assignment. Despite everything we have talked about in this class, such as how we should encourage people to learn how to code, or how some people taught themselves to code with much simpler and lesser resources, I anticipated that I would struggle with this assignment. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I chose to work with HTML and I found that the instructions made the assignments very easy. I found myself excited to go on to the next steps, because learning something as simple as being able to place a link in a picture through HTML, felt like a step forward to creating bigger and better things on my own. I look forward to trying out the other tutorials, and I hope to share this resource with anyone who will listen.

The most rewarding thing about this assignment was realizing that coding doesn’t have to be an inaccessible form of literacy. While I know I’m not ready to create my own website just yet, I look forward to learning how. This resource makes this an approachable way of learning. When I began the tutorial and found that it was very easy to follow the instructions, and the feedback helped me fix whatever wasn’t right, it was really enjoyable. The instructions were very straightforward, and I think it would be a great place for beginners to start.



HTML Basics Badge from Codeacademy.com

Code Academy- Python

I made a Code Academy account last year for my Essential Information Technology class. We were instructed to complete the HTML & CSS section, but because of the deadline I felt like I ended up rushing through the last few tutorial sections and did not get as firm of a grasp on the language as I could have. Python was definitely more difficult than CSS, but still manageable. I believe that this website is an incredible asset to anyone wanting to learn about coding. As far as tutorials go I would say it’s much more hands on and accessible and aims to help people not only manage different coding languages, but actually use, apply, remember and truly learn them. While I would only recommend the website to family and friends who I think are interested in coding, I think tools like this should definitely be utilized in classrooms. However, I think it is essential that teachers using Code Academy realize that students will pick up the language at different paces and should be conscious of making sure kids don’t see the course as a race against the clock or against one another.


CodeAcademy

Coding Day Camp!

coding day camp

Prior to this Coding Day Camp, I would place my level of expertise at the intermediate level. I used Code Academy in my Essential Information and Technology course during my first year and, when I signed on for the camp, I realized I was about 48% through the HTML & CSS section. Despite this progress from my EIT class, I had not been on the site in a while and was a little scared to dive back into coding. Surprisingly, once I began navigating the site again, the coding language was easier than I remembered. I also really appreciated the hints that were offered during every exercise. The only time I used one was when I was having issues with the image. When I realized I was coding correctly, it gave me a confidence boost and I then concluded the issue may have just been either the url or simply because the image did not show up in the preview mode.

I would definitely consider completing this tutorial and starting another one. Not simply because it was easier than I remembered, but mainly due to the knowledge I have gained in this class. I now have a new appreciation for coding and see how valuable it is to be skilled in this area. There is a huge opportunity for coders in the work force and practice on this site may be the key to an amazing job in the future.

Considering my dad, sister and brother all work in the tech field, I would love to recommend it to them to see them go back to the basics. On the other hand, my mom needs a lot of help when it comes to technology so I would love for her to experience the site to see if she finds it either useful or interesting.

I believe this site is a great place to begin. It is informative and fun but, most importantly, encourages you every step of the way. This is crucial because consistent motivation is necessary whenever you are stepping into new territory and trying something new. I especially like the badges the site awards you when you finish a section (like the one shown in my screenshot). These awards not only make you feel accomplished, but they make you want to keep improving and learning more which is the exact mentality that we desperately need more of in this field today!

My experience with HTML & CSS on Code Academy

To be perfectly honest, prior to this assignment I was scared of coding. Despite the fact that speakers have been saying that anyone can code and that it’s something that can be picked up even after college, I just couldn’t get past the fact that elaborate websites could be based on something simple. I was expecting to struggle through this assignment and probably end up Googling how to do certain coding tasks along the way. My pessimistic attitude toward coding results from the fact that I have never had any interaction with coding until this tutorial. In fact, until this semester, all my years of education have never covered this topic. Therefore this unfamiliar language that serves as the basis of every website I’ve ever visited was a bit intimidating to say the least.

To my surprise, Code Academy’s interface and step-by-step breakdown of instructions, was very easy to follow and I was able to finish over a full hour of stress-free coding without having to consult outside sources for help! The tutorial was effective because it left no room for failure since every single step was spelled out thoroughly and generous hints were provided. I found irony in this since a few speakers talked positively about failure as a motivator and a necessary process toward success. I’ve always preferred to be successful without prior failure, so I appreciated the success-oriented steps in the tutorial. However I’m sure that in more complex coding applications, failure would be pretty much inevitable.

I would definitely consider completing more of this tutorial on HTML& CSS or even trying other coding languages. This kind of valuable information is being taught in classes that people pay money for. The fact that Code Academy offers it for free is wonderful and I would encourage anyone interested to take advantage of it. I believe that novices to coding should definitely start with online tutorials like Code Academy, which offers the perfect balance of hands-on learning and hand-holding, resulting in an enlightened mind that is open to the many possibilities of coding.

HTML coding

This image shows the final step in HTML Basics, which is the last section I completed in the tutorial. In this step I used code to add and image, a hyperlink, and a hyperlink that was coded as an image.

Coding ABC’s (it’s easy as 1,2,3)

Throughout the past semester I have learned to accept the statement, “Anyone can learn to code” at face value. There is plenty of evidence that suggests this claim to be true, especially with all of the online coding programs such as code academy.  In class this semester, we have discussed how even young elementary age children are able to learn coding basics, just as they learn the alphabet or how to tie their shoes. However, despite the semester long discussion concerning the importance of introducing the basic principles of coding to girls and women in particular, I was still extremely hesitant to make an account and begin coding at codeacademy.com. Before taking this Women in Technology class my misinformed perception of coding stemmed from my minimal understanding of technology. This misconception was supplemented by my extremely stereotypical association of coding with a restrictive culture of computer geeks who stared at screens all day long typing in an enigmatic language called code. Long before I knew what code really was, I determined that I simply wasn’t coder material, nor did I think it was possible to understand something so complex on my own. Although have a completed less than two hours of coding, I am finally cognizant the reality of what coding actually entails.  After spending the last two hours learning the basics of coding with HTML, through the hands on instruction in the Code Academy program, I have de-mystified the concept of the fundamental code language and realized that I too can learn to code.

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 7.29.53 PMThe Code Academy program has numerous features that makes it extremely accessible and informative. For starters, it is free, which allows anyone to test it out for him or herself. Secondly, the concise step-by-step directions makes it easy to write the lines of code step one part at a time. This feature makes the overall task less overwhelming, especially when the steps get more complicated. Additionally, there are hints and supplementary explanations provided in case something is confusing or too complicated. I was a frequent user of these clues, because my first attempt at writing code was far from flawless. Not only is the program instructive, but it also encourages you to continue on with the lessons. Now that I know for myself that coding is truly something that anyone can learn, I will definitely continue to deepen my understanding of coding basics with the Code Academy program and encourage others to do the same.

Much like our discussions in class, my recent coding epiphany represents just the starting point for future growth in the field of technology. Although the coding program and the challenging real-world situations, such as the Gamergate conflict, are likely to get more complicated as technology continues to develop , the only way to find a solution is to address the problem. Coders and non-coders, males, females, kids, college students, CEO’s and high school dropouts all around the world must open their eyes to the realities of technology in our world today. I believe that everyone should try out this or another coding program because it creates a foundation for understand all forms of technology.  Such technologies increasingly define the way we live, interact with others, learn, and improve our everyday lives. I am certain that my new level of coding proficiency will only continue to enhance my overall perception of the technologies that are intertwined with my everyday life, and I hope that other “non-coders, like myself, open their minds to the language of code through the Code Academy program.